Sunday 18 March 2018

Paul McCartney records with label that rejected him 50 years ago

Sir Paul McCartney: Set to make recording debut on Decca. Photo: Getty Images
Sir Paul McCartney: Set to make recording debut on Decca. Photo: Getty Images

Anthony Barnes

Half a century after the Beatles were famously rejected by record company Decca, Sir Paul McCartney is to make his debut on the label.

The musician's first ballet, Ocean's Kingdom, which receives its premiere next month, is to be released by the company later this year.

The Fab Four's snub by Decca is often seen as one of the biggest errors in judgment in the music business. Months later, the group signed to Parlophone and began a run of chart-toppers to become the biggest act in the world.

Sir Paul was commissioned by the New York City Ballet to create his new work, with the score recorded in London in June, conducted by John Wilson. The production will premiere in New York on September 22, with the album, performed by the London Classical Orchestra, to follow on October 3.

It is the score's appearance on the label that turned the band down in early 1962 which will tickle many fans.

The quartet headed to London on December 31, 1961, to record their studio audition, arriving late in the evening after roadie Neil Aspinall - later to become boss of the band's company Apple - lost his way.

The tracks they recorded the next day - including Besame Mucho, The Sheik Of Arbay and Like Dreamers - were not thought to be up to scratch, despite being honed through their Hamburg days.

Decca rejected them on the grounds that "guitar groups are on the way out" and the band "have no future in show business". Instead the firm signed The Tremeloes.

Reflecting on the rejection, Sir Paul has subsequently said the band did not deserve a deal at that point.

"We obviously weren't that good," he said. "You wouldn't have thought we were that great. You'd have turned us down if you were a record company. And they did - Decca turned us down."

Ocean's Kingdom marks his first orchestral score for dance, but he has already released a number of symphonic works including Ecce Cor Meum which came out on EMI Classics. He has subsequently ended his association with EMI after more than four decades with the company.

Sir Paul approached the composition by visiting the Royal Opera House to see Adolphe Adam's Giselle. He met dancers from the Royal Ballet afterwards to discuss his work, later deciding on "the purity of the ocean" as a central theme to his work.

The musician completed a first draft in two months, then worked with choreographer Peter Martins - the NYCB's master in chief - to refine the work.

It is made up of four movements - Ocean's Kingdom, Hall of Dance, Imprisonment and Moonrise - and tells the story of an underwater world threatened by humans.

He said of the score: "What was interesting was writing music that meant something expressively rather than just writing a song.

"Trying to write something that expressed an emotion - so you have fear, love, anger, sadness to play with and I found that exciting and challenging."

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